How do solar water heating systems work?
Solar water heating systems (Solar Thermal) use solar panels, sometimes called collectors, which are generally fitted to your roof. These absorb warmth from the sun to heat a special formula liquid within the panels which is then pumped to your hot water cylinder and used to heat up your domestic hot water. A conventional boiler or immersion heater can still be used to top up your cylinder temperature when required. Solar panels will generally provide about 70 per cent of a household’s hot water needs, if sized correctly, well-installed and properly used.
Is my property suitable?
Most properties in the UK are suitable for Solar Thermal as hot water production is very good for South, East and West facing roofs – we can detail accurate production figures after we have conducted a free site survey. Roof pitches in the UK are ideal for Solar Thermal too. Significant shading of the roof is to be avoided although Thermal panels only require a small area (up to about 5m2) and so in most cases can be easily situated to avoid any significant shading.
How do I get the £600 off voucher?
£600 off voucher funding towards the overall cost of the solar thermal installation is available from the UK Government’s Renewable Heat Premium Payment (RHPP) scheme. For details on how to apply for the voucher please follow this link to the Energy Savings Trust website – Renewable Heat Premium Payment – RHPP
How do I get the RHI annual cash back payment?
Our solar systems are designed to be eligible for the RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive) which was launched in November 2011 for commercial systems and is due to be launched in early 2014 for domestic systems. It is proposed that the domestic RHI payment, when introduced, will pay 17.3p per kwh as cashback and will be guaranteed for a 7 year period, with typical cashback payments to domestic customers of well over £200 every year. Follow this link for more details on the Energy Savings Trust website – Renewable Heat Incentive – RHI At present, commercial systems that qualify for the RHI earn 8.9p per kwh cashback for every unit of energy produced guaranteed for 20 years from the date on installation.
What energy cost saving should I expect?
High quality solar panels can save about 70 per cent of a household’s annual domestic hot water costs, if sized correctly, well-installed and properly used. In summer this saving can rise to as much as 100% while in spring and autumn it can be approx. 45% and even in winter the system can still save 10-15% on this cost.
What is involved in the installation?
Solar Thermal arrays are ideal for most roofs. A typical domestic installation would take between 1 – 2 days to complete and depending on safe access to the specified location may require the use of temporary scaffolding. For on-roof mounted systems (sitting above the roof tiles) rigid brackets are fixed into place under the roof tiles directly onto the rafters, then aluminium rails are secured to these brackets on which the panels are securely clamped. For in-roof mounted systems (flashed smoothly into the roof/tiles) the appropriate area of existing roof tiles is removed and the panels are fixed directly onto the rafters (or additional wooden bracing if required) and then a dedicated solar flashing kit is used to flash around the panels creating a continuous smooth plane between the panel and the main roof tiles. The solar pipe work is run via a pump station and control unit to the hot water cylinder of the property.
Which type of panel should I have?
There are two types of solar water heating panels and both do exactly the same job:
1) Flat plate collectors – which can either be neatly integrated into the roof or can be fixed on rails over the roof tiles. These flat panels, generally with a dark glass appearance, have a long pedigree of production and use in the European market and offer the most aesthetically pleasing solar solution.
2) Evacuated tubes – which are fixed over the roof tiles. Evacuated tubes have slightly higher efficiencies than flat plate panels and can therefore offer better output during the early Spring/late Autumn and Winter periods.
How durable are Solar Thermal panels?
Panels are extremely durable and are used in many extreme conditions such as on weather stations in exposed wind-swept locations and operate well in the sub-zero conditions of the high Alps. Most manufacturers offer between 10-20 year warranties on their panels and realistic life expectancies of high quality Solar Thermal flat plate panels are between 30-40+ years.
Do I have to change my hot water cylinder?
To get the best out of the solar system you may have to change the cylinder. We will advise you on this once we have conducted our free solar survey of the property. Replacing older cylinders is a sensible option anyway as modern cylinders have much better insulation and so reduce your hot water running costs. Modern cylinders may not need replacing.
Is my boiler compatible with solar water heating?
Most conventional gas or oil boilers are compatible with solar water heating. If you have a combination boiler (combi) we may need to install a new hot water cylinder to store your free hot water.
What regular maintenance is required?
There is no regular maintenance required of the Solar Thermal panels as they have no moving parts. The surface of the panel is self-cleaning, meaning that rainfall and wind will do all the cleaning necessary. For panels mounted at less than about 15O of tilt some dust may build up and this can easily be removed by hosing down the panels. The whole system should be serviced at regular intervals as per installer or manufacturer guidelines in order to maintain its performance.
Does Solar Thermal work in winter?
Yes. Even in winter a well sited panel will produce some hot water, although most of the household benefit will be achieved in spring, autumn and summer.
How do I get the most benefit out of my solar panels?
Your lifestyle and how much and when you use most of your hot water will affect how much you benefit from the solar system. Adjusting your existing hot water heating controls may well help you to get the most benefit from your free solar hot water and we can advise you on this when we survey your property or when we install the solar system.
Do I need Planning Permission?
In most cases fixing solar panels to your roof is considered ‘permitted development’ under planning law with no need to apply for planning permission. If your property is a listed building you will need to enquire about listed buildings consent.
Please visit the government planning website for more information: (Click Here for the Planning Portal)
If you are in any doubt you should check with your Local Planning Authority (LPA) and Building Control department prior to undertaking any work.